Since September 2016, students involved in Friends of the Environment’s Island Investigators program conducted a garbage index survey of communities in Central Abaco.
Through Island Investigators, the students investigate environmental issues on a small scale that affect or concern them as young people. In the past, they have also investigated mangrove disease, planted corals on reef balls, and investigated snails destroying reef in Sandy Point.
Lorenz Carter, Brad Cooper and Rachel Rolle of Forest Heights Academy and Duane Johnson of St. Francis de Sales School carried out the garbage index survey. The process was a tedious one as the students first had to find the right people to call to find out each community’s clean-up days along with the population of each area included in the survey. The students then filled out assessment sheets with information everywhere they went
In total, 8,898 people are believed to be affected in the areas surveyed.
Weighing in on the discussion, Kristin Williams, executive director at FRIENDS, said that the reality is that Abaco can potentially find itself without fresh water in the next 10 years because of various substances leaching into our freshwater lens.
That being the case, there is much work to be done.
Meeting once a week over the course of two school semesters, the students took a map of Central Abaco, sectioned it off into 12 areas, and surveyed those areas. They canvased every community between Murphy Town to Marsh Harbour as well as Sweeting’s Tract. Based on their research, food containers and appliances were the most common items found.
Each area was given a grade of A to D minus, and there were vast differences found from community to community. According to the grading scale, an A described an area that was litter free. B meant that the community was mainly litter free with some small items found. A grade of C meant that the students found many small items with some larger ones like cans and food containers strewn around. Finally, a D grade indicated that the area was heavily littered with large and small items with trash accumulated inside and as far as the boundaries of the community.
Hence, Area 1 – Murphy Town – was given a C; S. C. Bootle Highway (Area 2), C minus; Dundas Town (Area 3), C plus; Central Pines (Area 4), B; The Mudd and Peas (Area 5), D minus; Marsh Harbour (Area 6), B minus; Pelican Shores (Area 7, which included the Memorial Plaza, restaurant strip and Little Orchard), A minus; Crossing Beach (Area 8), C; Government Sub-division (Area 9), B; Don Mackay Blvd. (Area 10), B minus; Sweeting’s Tract (Area 11), C plus; and the new airport highway (Area 12), D.
The Island Investigators agreed that the areas with high volumes of garbage could also be traced to unregulated garbage pick-ups as well as stray dogs pulling garbage bins over and emptying their contents.
Based on their views before conducting the survey, most of the students were surprised by what they discovered. For instance, Lorenz was surprised by the amount of appliances they found although the food containers were expected. For Duane, he had expected the Crossing Beach to be much cleaner because it is located in a tourist area.
On the other hand, Brad said he wanted to tackle the project from a neutral perspective. Although he had heard one of the areas was in a bad state, he did not want to be judgmental; however, he said during their research what he observed went from bad to worse. There was a giant trash pile located in one of the communities – literally right in the middle of where the people live.
Their survey also included a visit to BAIC Park where the recent Junkanoo parade was held, and the students discovered more than 520 straws alone after a clean-up had already been done of the area.
As the discussion began to wind down, Cassandra Abraham, FRIENDS Education Officer, said it would be interesting to repeat the survey to see if there are any improvements in the areas surveyed. Otherwise, they may decide to survey the communities that were not included in the first survey.
Abraham added that the goal of the project was not to point fingers, but to organize an outreach project to bring awareness and improvement to each area.
Therefore, Coconut Tree Bay is their target for Murphy Town, and they will contact groups that are already there to do clean ups while supplying garbage bags, glove and other supplies.
“I’m hoping that this article brings more awareness to get more people involved. It is a big challenge to initiate, to engage and to keep people educated,” she explained. “Not only did we want to do the garbage survey, but to also contact authorities to see what can be done. One idea is to make garbage pick-ups more regulated and to organize cleanups especially along the highways.”